Who will fight for me when I’m gone?: The legacy and response to the lynching of Mexicans in the American borderlands

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2021-08

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Abstract

Within the historiography of lynching in the United States, much of the focus is on the lynching of African Americans in the Deep South. Authors who have written about cases involving ethnic Mexicans focus on the multitude of events proving that these victims existed, and they do not make up a negligible percentage of cases. In their book, The Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States 1848-1928, William Carrigan and Clive Webb write that if one looks at the number of cases relative to population density, that an ethnic Mexican was more likely to be lynched in the American West than an African American was to be lynched in the Deep South. Yet, in this opinion of this historian, while it is important to highlight the number of cases, one must also explore communities' response and how they resisted lynch law. Therefore, this thesis argues that ethnic Mexicans were not passive victims of American lynch law but resisted in different ways. This argument is supported by five case studies from 1851 to 1911 and separated cases into three categories; families that sued local and state governments, communities that started riots, created community activist organizations, threatened international relations, and those who were future generations turned into legends and heroes. This thesis focuses on cases in the states of California and Texas. Through comparative analysis of similar cases, one can gauge how ethnic Mexicans not only resisted lynch law but resisted Anglo domination but were able to gain autonomy over the narrative of such lynchings.


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Keywords

Lynching, Racism, Mexicans, West, Borderlands, Texas, California

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